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PhD planning


For quite a while I’ve been slowly circling a prospective PhD topic. There were a few candidates at the start of this year, but I’ve whittled it down to one now, and I have been pulling out books from the wonderful London Library on it for a while (sidebar: that place is aces, and I recommend all London/England-based folks to consider a membership). It could still go in two directions, though: English Lit or Comp Lit. I’ve not decided which, yet, and I might even consider applying to both.

The difficulty is that, in general, I am more attracted to Comp Lit programmes in the States than those in the UK, perhaps because they are longer, allowing for greater opportunities for language learning and exploring literature in two-plus languages. However, I’m disinclined to go to the States, in part because I have a fair amount of student debt in the UK already, and in order to pay it off I really need to stay full-time employed (or get good funding) for at least part of my PhD work. In the grand scheme of things, I think it is preferable to do PhD work full-time, not least because it allows for greater involvement with journals, conferences and activities like undergrad teaching that can be really important for pursuing an academic career afterwards. I’m not sure I’m quite committed to that yet either, though! There are plenty of good reasons to avoid academia, at least right now, with the state of higher education as it is (in both the UK and the US), but it does still call to me…. For example, I once turned down a pretty darn good graduate school deal because I wasn’t sure academia was a good bet, but it didn’t take very long for me to be drawn into the part-time MA that I’m doing now.

There are plenty of great bloggers out there with useful tips for graduate students and those hoping to do graduate work (Justin O’Hearn, for example), but the decision to embark upon a research degree is always difficult, and as much as advice as there is out there, it’s always a personal and (I think) irrational choice.

I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and at least email programme directors about how they structure part-time work. There’s no reason not to anymore, and it’s October (tomorrow)! Deadlines are looming, really. Unless I wait until next October when I will have my final MA result, but it will be that little bit harder to solicit references (the part I hate most of applications).

Oh, it’s a dilemma alright!



  1. Totally understand everything you are going through. I have the same reservations about joining academia – especially now – despite my love for learning.

    For what its worth I was a comp. lit. / History undergraduate student, and at least in the U.S. I find any serious thought coming out of literature programs is centered around comp. lit. I am not just saying this because I was one either. The immersion with theory and other languages that you get in comp. lit. tends to lead you into more unique and colorful directions.

  2. La Graciada says:

    Thanks, Matthew. That is certainly a big part of why comp lit appeals to me. I chose my major very late on when the opportunity to do comp lit (or lit/history) was essentially closed because of a system of year-long mandatory courses that I had missed the boat on, so I was in the English department looking out!

    Sadly, there are far fewer comp lit programmes vs English ones, though, so there are also draw-backs for students who are thinking about part-time work while studying full-time and are therefore somewhat limited in their geographical choices.

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